Sunday, 14 February 2016

How Being An Air Force Brat Prepared Me For The Pro Hockey Life

How Being an Air Force ‘Brat’ Prepared me for the Pro-Hockey Life
Yvonne Horvat Murphy

My name is Yvonne Horvat Murphy. I am married to Mike Murphy former NHL hockey player for the LA Kings, NY Rangers & St. Louis Blues and present day Senior V.P. of the NHL 'Hockey Operation'. Prior to his present day position with the hockey league and after he retired from playing pro, he was Assistant and Head Coach for the LA Kings and Toronto Maple Leafs and Assistant Coach for the Vancouver Canucks, NY Rangers and Ottawa Senators and head coach of the Milwaukee Admirals (Vancouver's farm team).

I was born into the military life where patriotism is bred into us kids on a daily basis.  My father was a Lt Colonel in the United States Air Force at the time of his retirement, which is how I became a 'brat’ growing up.  For us military brats, home truly is where both the heart and family are.  I was born at Edwards AFB and 6 weeks later I began traveling when we moved to England for 3 years, Korea for 2 years, Hawaii for 2 years and Ohio for 1 year.  In-between those years we spent summers in Washington DC, and Alabama.  But we always returned to my birthplace, California. California was the one and only place that gave me any sense of roots and also proof that I wasn't part of some type of alternative American gypsy tribe!  

Fast forward, and I met my husband Mike in 1974 when he played for the Los Angeles Kings. We fell in love and within 8 months were married. A funny story about meeting him was the fact that my older sister had married her husband, who also was a Canadian playing for the LA Kings one year before we even met.  Then a few years after I was married, my husband introduced my baby sister to a  teammate, they hit it off and got married…! I think we are possibly the only 3 sisters to marry professional hockey players in the NHL and on the same team.  If I knew the Guinness World Book of Records folks I would send that fact in! 

Mike and I raised our family in Los Angeles as he would remain with the LA Kings until 1988.  I do believe we broke some type of a record in the NHL if there were a record keeping tab, by meeting, marrying, and having all 4 children in the same city with the same NHL team for 15 years! I thought I had finally planted my brat boots on some solid ground .... for so many reasons was I WRONG!  

Those years being in the same city with my little family was not only a little slice of heaven, but it also produced a false sense of security. Once he hung up the professional hockey skates to become hired on as a scout and then Head Coach (the youngest head coach in the NHL at that time) we were off to the races..or the rinks?!  Even though I grew up a ‘brat’, I wasn't prepared to pack up the only home my children had ever known and head out from my beautiful California.  I had to gather all 4 of my babes, give the puppy back to the breeder we had just bought 5 months before, and kiss my mother and family goodbye in the lovely California sunshine to move to the sun starved, perennially dark and misty Vancouver, British Columbia. We lived in North Vancouver for 2 years where my husband was Assistant Coach, then moved for 1 year to Milwaukee, Wisconsin, where my husband was Head Coach of the Canucks farm team, before we were off to a rental home in Aurora, Ontario where my husband was hired as Assistant Coach of the Toronto Maple Leafs.  I would have dreaded the moving if not for my 'brat' background. The Military Brat poem states...' My hometown is nowhere, my friends are everywhere.’  I grew up with the knowledge that home is where the heart and the family are. Even though we had found stability in Los Angeles, mobility is my way of life.  

Some would wonder about roots, yet for me they are as deep and strong as the mighty oak.  I sink them quickly, absorbing everything a new city offers and hopefully, giving enrichment in return.

I realized as we drove up the coast of California to Vancouver on our very first move as a family, that it was possible I may never return again with all my children still living with me as dependents, but, my faith in God carried me through to trust and believe that the game of hockey would be heading us in the direction to a better future and my husband was that steady ship that had always made sound decisions for us all. 

I also felt reassurance in the knowledge that there were other hockey wives, including my 2 sisters, who were going through the same situation as I.  

Learning as I went on the fly in the crazy life of a hockey wife…!